Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

& her barefoot heart

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Calder Ray’s Standing Invitation

BabyQuilt4

The clock ticks loudly. Time to make that quilt for my soon-to-be born grandchild. I have no idea what I want it to look like – something that doesn’t alarm me cause I usually start with only the vaguest notion of what I want to do. Even on the rare occasion when I do have a detailed, clear idea, it seldom turns out the way I envisioned, creativity being what it is and all. Not knowing the gender or room color, I gather my supplies, selecting colors that tickles my eyes and cloth that satisfies my touch. I trust my Bones.

Leaves3

Ideas and images come to call as I go along. I cut scraps into ovals and send them out to my elves, asking them to get signatures for me. And when the pieces come back, I decide I have to – I just have to – stitch over the autographs to make them more visible, more lasting.

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I stitch wherever I am – in the car, on the sofa, in the studio. Sometimes I stitch in the darkness of a hospital room.

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and at my niece’s house. (Which reminds me: I need to order them some more bubble juice.)

Monkey2
My 2 year old great nephew is gracious enough to model a monkey for me, something to fill that unexpected bare spot. Once it is stitched, he seems a little under-enthusiastic about my monkey (which indicates his bend towards the more literal-brained side of the family). (Which is all of them except Nancy.) (Though a couple of them seem to be melting a little bit as they go along.)

BirdAndNest1 copy

FlockOfBirds

I stitch the bird and the nest and the flock of birds while at my son’s house. Because all I could hear on the inside was a short tape of things my father-in-law said when I showed him the sketches I made on my first day of drawing class, I decide to cut freehand instead of drawing on the fabric and cutting on the lines. I feel like a proud kindergartner when I show my son the impromptu birds and nest.  I’m not sure he noticed the heart-shaped eggs. They were a last-minute addition. Of course.

(Note: See that autograph just to the right of the top bird on the left in the picture above? That’s Nancy’s signature. And the one to the right of it? That’s my 2-year old great-nephew’s siggie.)

Branches2

I stitch the trunk (which was originally hanging down below the quilt) and the branches while at my daughter’s house. Oh those branches. What a fit they give all of us – Alison, The Engineer, and me. I lay down fabric for each branch to indicate the different branches of the family tree. But it is too chaotic – too much visual clutter. The three of us grow quite cranky. Nobody knows what to do. Finally, in a Hail Mary foot stomp kind of move, I find enough of the same fabric, fold it over and over again, lay it down on the already-attached branches, and voila! My eyes calm and purr. Each branch now sports a different base and the same top cover. The same, but different. Together, but separate. I like that. And the trunk? It is far too distracting hanging down, so I snip it off and hem it up.

AnimalsAndInvitation

At The Very Last Minute, I add an impromptu gathering of our cats and dogs, sitting in a surprise flower bed. Then I add the invitation . . . When becoming gets too hard, go to the Forest. Maybe this is one time I should’ve printed my words on paper and stitched through the paper cause then I might’ve had room to say “family” forest. Hopefully everybody – and most especially You Know Who – gets the idea.

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Finally this happens

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and this (oh those Chambers men)

and 3 months later, when they come for a visit here atop the mountain,
this happens while Calder Ray lays on a pallet of 3 quilts made by my grandmother,
his great great grandmother. First we sing our first duet . . .

. . . then one sings and the other dances.
In this neck of the woods, we call that a Hootenanny.
(And um, about that singing. It’s fairly obvious to everybody
that Alison does not get her talent from me.)

SignedSealedDelivered

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And now the quilt  – Calder Ray’s Standing Invitation – hangs in his room.
Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
(Note the wall color – ha!)
Everybody calls him Calder, but I’m Southern,
and we like double names, so I call him Calder Ray.

LoveNotesToCalderRay

And on top of the shelves under the quilt is this blue elephant. I bought it before he was born cause I knew – I just knew – he was gonna’ be a boy. Because so many different colors of dirt and rocks lie between Calder Ray and me, I keep Mr. Blue Elephant filled to the brim with handwritten bedtime notes from me. When he’s old enough to appreciate it, his parents are supposed to pull one out every night when he’s tucked into bed and read it to him. Eventually he’ll be able to read them himself, of course, and I already know things I want to write him when he’s off at college or heading down The aisle. You know I do.

I also have an inkling of another quilt I want to make him. Well, 12 or 15 quilts, actually. One to wrap up in when he is sick. One to wrap up in when he needs fortification. One to lay on for nap time. A quilt to sleep under on Christmas Eve, another for Valentine’s Day (also my birthday, so that one will have to be special), his birthday quilt, a New Year’s quilt, a First Day of School quilt, and a big, anytime/anywhere quilt that will remind him of the special sauce I’ve already begun whispering to him every chance I get:

You are kind.
You are funny.
You are smart.
You are creative.

This quilt I can already see.

Day Two in France: Paris

Day Two is a day of stories, friendship, quilts, and pairs of X’s . . .

This morning, dear Chantal showed up at our rented flat with the first Friendship Block for The 70273 Project. What is a friendship block, you ask? Well, it’s something I’d planned to wait to tell you about till July 1, but looks like I need to go ahead and tell you now since I’ve got and spilled the beans early.

We’re borrowing a page from the history books and creating Friendship Quilts to raise funds for The 70273 Project. You take a red marker and write your name, using your first name as one of the lines in the red X and your last name as the second line that crosses the first line in the red X. For the other red X, you can write the name of the person you dedicate your block to – maybe an ancestor, a friend, a family member, a student – or maybe you do like Chantal did and make a collaborative friendship block. Ask a friend or loved one or even me to use their name to make the second red X. Then you send the block with a financial donation that will be much appreciated and well used, I promise. If you live in the US, you will also receive a receipt for your income tax report. So that, my friends, is what a Friendship Block is. Friendship blocks will be used only in Friendship quilts, too, by the way, and they will be counted as commemorative blocks.

Our first stop was heaven. Or, as some of you might call it, a fabric shop. But not just any fabric shop. This is the fabric store little girl Chantal visited with her mother, and every time they went, young Chantal secretly wished that this would be the day her mother bought fabric to make a dress just for Chantal instead of another hand-me-down dress she would get when her sister outgrew it.

When I heard that, I knew what I wanted – nay, I knew what I just had to do: buy the fabric for Calder Ray’s sleeping quilt. And I did. Found some beautiful soft fabric in the blue that he loves. And what’s in Chantal’s bag, you might ask? Well, she bought herself some lovely fabric . . . to make herself a dress.

I love everything about this shop . . . the quilted floors,

The doll-size mannequins wearing the most smashing outfits. Chantal says she remembers them being here when she was a little girl coming with a special wish.

Though we took our time looking around, it was eventually time to leave, and let me tell youThe Engineer was sad to leave, too . . . because the store was air conditioned.

We visited the Chapelle du Saint-Sacrement, where Chantal was gracious enough to find shady inclines instead of full sun steps.

There are quilts everywhere in that church . . . at the door, I spy borders.

On the floor, I spy quilts..

On the altar, I spy a quilt.

On the floor, I spy a colorful quilt of stained glass reflections appliquéd onto the floor “blocks”.

In the ancient stained glass, I see a 9-block with much color and intrigue surrounding it.

I fall head-over-heels in love with these modern quilts . . . I mean windows . . . and Chantal and I take a seat in front of them and talk about not just the windows, but Nancy and The 70273 Project and quilting techniques.

In the ceiling, I find two X’s, and I imagine they are red.

And on our exit, I get another view of Paris.

On the nearby multi-function place, I see more X’s that, if you squint your eyes just right, can be red.

In the area where artist have long set up stalls, I spy a blue, white, and red 9-patch.

We enjoy a French pancake breakfast for a late lunch. It was delicious, and there was a heart in my sweet pancake. A heart. That’s what this trip has been filled with.

I wish y’all would look at the bottom of the chairs, something I didn’t see till just now . . . two more X’s.

it was cooler today, in part because of the spectacular clouds, in part because of the constant breeze, and in part because Chantal went out of her way to find shade for us to walk in. And it was another lovely day spent with the darling Chantal who gives us time from her busy schedule. I am so very grateful for that and for all she does to commemorate the 70,273.

Three more sleeps till the first major European exhibit for The 70273 Project. How will I manage to sleep with all the anticipation and excitement? Pfffft. I can sleep on the flight home.

A Handmade Christmas

Seems  like it was 3 years ago, yet the calendar say it was a mere 3 weeks ago when the family gathered together for a week of hilarity, memory making, and opening. Last year I stole minutes here and there from The 70273 Project to make some gifts for giving.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .

When Mom was a baby, her mother took her to visit one of her grandmothers. Mother reached down and grabbed a tiny fistful of the lace collar on her grandmother’s blouse. “This baby is gonna’ like pretty things,” the grandmother correctly predicted, so Mother’s stocking was made with flowers to reflect her flourishing green thumb and topped with lace.

My daughter-in-law, Marnie, is an art historian who enjoys art that’s so old it makes my head hurt. Before our trip to see The Bayeux Tapestry several years ago, Marnie gave me enough background information that I should’ve gotten college credit hours. Her stocking was topped with embroidered trim depicting a section of The Bayeux Tapestry.

When my daughter was born, I took her stocking to the hospital with me and added the last element – her name  – after she was born and before we brought her home.

Fourteen months later, I did the same thing with my son’s stocking, taking it to the hospital to add his name once we knew whether we were the proud parents of a girl or a boy.

The Engineer’s grandmother, we called her Maw – made a quilt of old suits once worn by The Engineer’s grandfather, Pops. Though I could’ve repaired the quilt, I chose to make The Engineer a stocking from it.

Calder Ray celebrated his first Christmas in 2016. I used colors from Alexander Calder’s artist palette to make the fabric for my grandson’s stocking, cuffing it with some wool fabric from Ireland, and Calder Ray did just what you’d expect a seven month old to do: he chewed on it.

Remember I told you how Marnie likes ancient art and how knowledgeable and enamored she is with The Bayeux Tapestry? Well, this year I put the quilting frame down and picked up the wool to do a needlepoint canvas of one of the scenes from The Bayeux Tapestry. After finishing  it, I could not decide what to do with it. Should I frame it?  They don’t really have that many available walls, so maybe not. Make a pillow? That would mean cording, and I am not good at cording, so no. When I spied the adorable little stool with the hinged lid in the antique store, I knew what to do, so now Marnie has a footstool, covered with a needlepoint scene from The Bayeux Tapestry and a wee little bit of storage space to boot. (I just hope their new, rambunctious Border Collie, Harper, who has a hankering for gnawing on wooden furniture, never discovers the wood underneath the needlepoint.)

With visions of not sugarplums, but with dreams of a ritual of the quilt being pulled out every December 1 and slept under till the New Year, I made Calder Ray his Christmas quilt, not to hang on the wall, but to use. I’ll show you better, fuller photos later when I’m finished quilting it (Yes, I gifted it to him partly quilted and partly basted) so you can see that branches and needles of the red tree (I’ll explain the red later, too) are in the shape of my hands, and the trunk is in the shape of Calder Ray’s feet.

The body of the angel that perches at the top of the red tree is made of drawings of Calder Ray’s feet, and her wings are made from drawings of Calder Ray’s pudgy, recently-discovered 7-month old hands. Her raiments are from a napkin The Engineer found for me in a local thrift shop.

You know, 4.5 decades ago, I made everybody’s Christmas gifts as a matter of economy – as newlyweds, we didn’t have money to spend buying a lot of presents – and I remember getting a note from my sister-in-law saying that she felt like the lucky one because while The Engineer bought his brother a nice gift, hers was handmade. Her words didn’t really mean all that much then, but now, when I snuggle under the quilt my grandmother made, when I look at the crewel work my mother stitched, when we hang those handmade ornaments on the tree, I understand and offer up a wee little wish that Calder Ray and his parents put these things in their cherish column one day, too.

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Looking for The 70273 Project? It’ll be back tomorrow, and in the meantime, try these haunts:
Subscribe to the blog (where all information is shared).
Join the English-speaking Facebook group – our e-campfire – where you can talk to other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.
Join the French-speaking Facebook group – our other e-campfire – where you can chat with other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.
Like the Facebook page where you can check in for frequent updates.
Get folks to help celebrate your birthday by making blocks and/or donating bucks.
Follow the pinterest board for visual information.
Post using #the70273project on Instagram. (Please tag me, too, @whollyjeanne, so I don’t miss anything.)
Tell your friends what you want for your birthday.
Shop with Amazon Smile and support The 70273 Project.
And if you haven’t yet made some blocks, perhaps you’d like to put some cloth in your hands and join us.
Or maybe you’d like to gather friends and family, colleagues or students, club or guild members, etc. together and make a group quilt.

© 2017 Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

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